VITO MANNONE hopes he can stave off the threat of Keiren Westwood and keep his spot as Sunderland number one for this weekend’s visit of Manchester City.
Summer signing Mannone made only his second Sunderland start in last night’s Capital One Cup victory over Southampton, as the Black Cats secured a home quarter-final tie with Gus Poyet’s former club Chelsea.
The Italian impressed on his Sunderland Premier League bow at Hull City on Saturday after replacing the injured Westwood and again looked solid against a much-changed Southampton.
But with Republic of Ireland international Westwood expected to be fit for Sunday’s clash with a City side who have netted 12 goals in their last two games, Mannone hopes his performances have given head coach Poyet a dilemma after playing second fiddle since arriving in a £2million deal from Arsenal.
Mannone told the Echo: “Of course I want to keep my place, that’s why I came here.
“I’ve been hurting on the sidelines, so I was really happy to take my chance on Saturday and do well for the team.
“It was a really good win last night and I was involved in a good performance. I want to push on.
“Obviously it’s down to the manager, but I’m available for him and I will push as hard as I can in every single training session and every single chance I get out there.
“This manager is very open to performances, he likes to watch the game and he will pick what he thinks is the best side.
“It’s not down to me, the manager has an opinion.
“But hopefully I’ve done enough to show I can play in this team and I want to push on to be number one. That’s why I’m here.”
Mannone admits he was disappointed to be denied what would have been only Sunderland’s second clean sheet of the season after Saints’ Maya Yoshida halved the deficit with two minutes to go – the seventh time during the campaign that the Black Cats have conceded from a set piece.
That goal came within two minutes of substitute Seb Larsson doubling Sunderland’s advantage after Phil Bardsley broke the deadlock early in the second half.
But, despite Yoshida’s late header, Mannone believes Sunderland can take encouragement from their defensive display after limiting Southampton to just two shots on target.
“We were really down as defenders and me personally because it was two minutes to go and a set piece again,” added Mannone.
“It was a great delivery, but we could have done better. But, of course, I take the good 88 minutes and if we keep defending like that, then I don’t think we are going to concede goals like before.
“We need to start from that base, don’t concede first and then when we have the ball, try to create.
“The win has given us a big boost in morale and we need to start from there, go onto the pitch on Sunday and think we can defend and play when we’ve got the ball.”
H Sunderland’s quarter final clash with Chelsea will take place on Tuesday, December 17 (kick-off 7.45pm). Ticket details will be confirmed in due course.